DAVID GREENE, host:
Now we go to neighboring Arizona and that state's controversial immigration law. Latinos there and elsewhere have mobilized to protest the law, which calls for police to check immigration documents if they suspect someone is in the country illegally. But some Latinos in Arizona say they favor the law. Peter O'Dowd of member station KJZZ has our report.
Mr. JESSE HERNANDEZ: (Spanish spoken)
PETER O'DOWD: This is Jesse Hernandez, a second generation Mexican-American, a product of public housing and a proud Phoenix Republican. We met in the neighborhood where he grew up and then took a short drive past a Mexican market to his childhood home.
Mr. HERNANDEZ: You can tell we're not affluent. We're, you know, it's a very simple home.
O'DOWD: Hernandez supports Arizona's effort to crack down on illegal immigrants. It's likely, though, that many people living on this street disagree with him. According to a Latino Decisions poll, Arizona Hispanics are overwhelmingly opposed to SB1070. They say provisions that force police to check immigration status will lead to rampant racial profiling. Still, 12 percent of second-generation Arizona Latino voters say they support the law. It jumps to nearly 30 percent in the fourth generation.
Jesse Hernandez says he knows many Latinos who feel just like he does.
Mr. HERNANDEZ: I just don't like the fact that, you know, they're going to say that an American Latino has the same concerns of a Latino from Mexico. No, we don't.
O'DOWD: Hernandez says his Mexican-born parents came to the U.S. after years of waiting at the border to secure papers. He says illegal immigrants need to get in line just like they did.
Mr. HERNANDEZ: We just don't have time to be take - going up and down the street, waving the Mexican flag saying we want rights. Because you know why? We did it the right way, and we have rights.
Mr. LUIS AVILA: I think that's ridiculous. I mean, the reality is that it takes 15, 20 years for anyone to get their documents.
O'DOWD: Luis Avila knows this because it took the Mexican native two decades to get his U.S. citizenship. He says he was lucky. Avila's middle-class family could afford to wait. Not so, he says for the many illegal immigrants who once lived in poverty back in Mexico.
Mr. AVILA: People make, you know, four or $5 and day, and they are not able to go to the big city to apply for residency. I mean, that line is way, way, way too long.
O'DOWD: Avila says he's saddened to hear that some Latinos would favor a bill that he considers morally wrong. To him, these Latinos are denying their culture.
Mr. AVILA: If I had a daughter or a son and they were in favor of SB1070, I would have to sit with them and talk to them about the struggles. I mean, it's like if an African-American person forgot that two or three generations ago they weren't able to vote and they are direct descendants of slaves.
O'DOWD: But even critics recognize the Latino community is not monolithic. Matt Barreto is a pollster with Latino Decisions.
Mr. MATT BARRETO (Pollster, Latino Decisions): We still tend to see, in public opinion polls, differences of opinions among Latinos. And we don't see the same uniformity of opinion that we do among African-Americans.
O'DOWD: In fact, Barreto says Latinos are likely to be split down the middle on less controversial immigration issues in Arizona. That is not the case, though, with Arizona's new law. Barreto says the community is strongly unified in protest against it. That makes it less likely to meet people like Mary Iniguez Marin(ph).
Ms. MARY INIGUEZ MARIN: Let's see. This was in Mexico. Here's my dad, when he made a trip. Look how young he was.
O'DOWD: Like Jesse Hernandez, Marin says she loves her people and her culture, and you can tell. Her photo album is full of pictures of the South Phoenix barrio where she grew up in the early 1940s. Her late father, Guadalupe, came from Mexico as part of the Bracero program. It allowed thousands of laborers to enter the U.S. and work in American fields.
Ms. MARIN: He was supposed to report back to immigration, but he didn't. He stayed, and he thought he could get away with it.
O'DOWD: Federal agents nearly deported her father when he was caught. Regardless, Marin says she supports Arizona's new law. She says her father did his part for the country. To stay in the U.S., he agreed to join the Navy. She says he paid his dues, unlike so many of today's new immigrants.
Ms. MARIN: They're here without permission, so, in a way, they have to go back.
O'DOWD: Opponents are trying to stop Arizona's law with a handful of lawsuits scheduled to go into effect July 29th. Just don't expect every Latino to protest if it does.
For NPR News, I'm Peter O'Dowd.
NPR transcripts are created on a rush deadline by a contractor for NPR, and accuracy and availability may vary. This text may not be in its final form and may be updated or revised in the future. Please be aware that the authoritative record of NPR’s programming is the audio.